Post Personnel Shake-Ups, Nutanix Elevate Emphasizes a 'Channel-Friendly Company’

Christian Alvarez aimed to turn the cloud computing company’s channel program into one partners would wholly embrace.

Kelly Teal, Contributing Editor

September 9, 2020

9 Min Read
Post Personnel Shake-Ups, Nutanix Elevate Emphasizes a 'Channel-Friendly Company’

Christian Alvarez came to Nutanix a year ago with an ambitious goal: Turn the cloud computing company’s channel program into one partners would wholeheartedly embrace. With Nutanix Elevate, he hopes to have done just that.

Alvarez, the company’s global channel chief, put Nutanix Elevate into action after four months of intense internal and field work.

“We wanted to start our new fiscal year with some great news and innovation at our … .Next event,” he told Channel Futures.

Whether partners are as enthusiastic as Alvarez is still a bit on the TBD side.


Nutanix’s Christian Alvarez

“Nutanix has always struggled with their partner programs,” René van den Bedem, master architect and strategist for modern data center at MSP RoundTower, told Channel Futures. “I think Elevate is a step in the right direction; they have the right idea, but it will come down to execution before it can be judged as being successful.”

Miguel Reyes is perhaps a bit more optimistic.

“Nutanix is listening to the partners in the field,” said Reyes, commercial director of Mexico City-based IT consultancy JustOne Solutions. “Any healthy business relationship needs the commitment from both parties. Nutanix reinforces the benefits to partners who focus on developing their capabilities and sales process.”

For his part, Alvarez remains upbeat.

“We need to invest where we’ve fallen short,” he said, repeating a mantra he has maintained since arriving at Nutanix. Nutanix Elevate, he added, “will yield [partners] more earnings potential with clarity and predictability and simplicity, and we suspect we’re going to see a surge of new partners.”

Nutanix Elevate: Not About the Biggest or Most Profitable Partners

What exactly, then, does Nutanix Elevate entail? For starters, simplicity. As one example, the entire partner program description now runs two-and-a-half pages instead of the previous 33.

Of course, the actual changes go much deeper. Notably, Nutanix Elevate comprises a competency-based model. The company has done away with tiered participation — in its case, the pioneer, scaler and master levels will disappear. Alvarez wanted to emphasize partner capability, not size.

“It’s no longer about who sells the most or who’s the biggest,” he said.

Instead, Nutanix will place partners into one of two buckets: cloud professional or cloud champion.

“We certainly value performance and sales achievement, but we’ve put more emphasis on competency,” Alvarez said. “We feel that giving all partners of all shapes and sizes the opportunity to really show their value and their competency, and to have an equal playing field to compete with all other types of partners, [is key].”

Each designation requires certain training and Nutanix-specific certification. A cloud champion, as one might imagine, invests more time and effort and therefore will end up earning more money. Nutanix will unveil its specializations later this year.

“We would love partners to have that MBA-type of level to be specialists in … different domains,” Alvarez said. “If they have those, they can earn more because they’ve made that investment of time and money resources.”

But not all partners have to wait that long. Current master participants will get a boost on Sept. 10. That’s when every Nutanix Master partner in good standing in the current charter program will automatically become a cloud champion.

“They’ll immediately start earning all of the new wonderful incentives,” Alvarez said. “They don’t have to do anything.”

Scalers, meanwhile, have one year to choose whether to …

… invest in cloud professional or cloud champion, and take the requisite tests. Pioneers get a little less time — six months. Regardless, Nutanix will keep the legacy channel program going in parallel with Nutanix Elevate so partners don’t lose any benefits.

“They’re not under pressure; they don’t have to hurry up and take people out of the streets to take all the necessary requirements,” Alvarez said.

As partners begin with Elevate, they’ll probably want some help. Nutanix is meeting that need with an Americas partner support center. It will offer presales assistance, answers for technical questions and more. The center is open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. ET. And as Nutanix Elevate takes off, the vendor will scale the support center into other markets.

What Else Does Nutanix Elevate Contain?

Nutanix also has instituted Performance Plus deal registration. Nothing is new in terms of a partner identifying and claiming a deal. Now, though, the process confers “a lot more protection,” eliminating the ability for another partner or the inside sales team to encroach and undercut on price. And speaking of Nutanix inside sales, under Nutanix Elevate, that team must bring a channel partner into every opportunity.

“That builds trust and collaboration,” Alvarez said. “But the magic here, and the exciting part of it is, you’re now inviting a partner based on their competency. It’s the right partner at the right time.”

Alvarez agreed that he aimed to eliminate some “territorial behavior” but, more importantly, he wanted to include more channel partners in deals for which they previously would not have been eligible.

To that end, he and his team further simplified operations by giving partners one portal. This means everything partners need to access – deal registration, marketing campaigns and so on – now reside in a single, consolidated interface.

What partners may care most about, however, lies in the financial fine print. Nutanix appears to have delivered with “enhanced profitability potential,” as Alvarez put it. That starts with incentives. Responding to partners’ requests, Nutanix Elevate now gives partners six months to expand within a new customer and earn more money.

“This is probably the No. 1, No. 2 ask that I’ve been hearing,” Alvarez said. “This is a really big deal.”

In other words, a Nutanix sale into a new client no longer means one and done. Partners now get six months to sell more Nutanix solutions to that customer and continue reaping the rewards.

“If they do all the right things they’re supposed to, the earnings potential is just huge,” he said.

A final note: Nutanix Elevate autopays every cloud professional and cloud champion partner for incentives.

“Complexity hinders the ability for partners to grow,” Alvarez said. Under Elevate, “partners, when entitled to incentives and rebates, no longer have to go through complex processes.”

Partners Have More to Sell

The momentum at Nutanix does not just apply to its partner program. This week, the company unveiled an enhanced version of its hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) software, and a Kubernetes-based multicloud platform-as-a-service (PaaS) product. Finally, Nutanix announced a partnership with one of the big three public cloud vendors.

The HCI software now comes with 50% faster performance, easier zero-trust security and virtual networking that simplifies cloud deployments. It also features Prism Ultimate, which contains application insights and automation for troubleshooting. Nutanix Prism can even monitor non-Nutanix environments.

RoundTower’s van den Bedem is excited about the upgrades.

“Nutanix Core is the leader in the HCI market,” he said, praising Nutanix for innovating and “blazing a trail for the competition to follow.”

He specifically called out the shift of the governance/security module from Xi Beam to Flow in Prism Central as one example.

“It’s is an interesting move,” he said. “Xi Beam was something that my customers did not show much interest in; moving it to Prism Central will increase adoption, I think.”

And, he said, adding virtual private cloud on-premises was …

… a smart move. It beefs up the Nutanix offering “to complete in the network virtualization market, which was always a hole in their game.”

On the whole, van den Bedem said, “these announcements will validate the decision [my customers] made when they invested in the Nutanix platform.”

JustOne Solutions’ Reyes, too, is a fan of the HCI improvements. The updates “are one of the reasons we feel comfortable with Nutanix — zero downtime, totally on the fly,” he told Channel Futures. “We really see a company totally committed with the product …without all the pain related to traditional software upgrades.”

Meanwhile, both partners also praised the Karbon debut for developing and deploying apps across any cloud. Channel partners can provision more managed services, and help customers take advantage of easier operations and life cycle management, and security.

“Every hybrid cloud vendor is trying to build a cloud operating system that will run any application in any cloud,” van den Bedem said. “It’s great to see Nutanix continue developing the Karbon in that direction. My customers will appreciate the Karbon offering as a feature that they will consume in the future, rather than something they need right now.”

Reyes feels similarly about the Karbon services. These will give JustOne “an easy way” to guide customers’ container strategies, Reyes said. Overall, he looks forward to leaning on Nutanix as he works with enterprises.

“In Latin America, we are still are in the early days of hybrid cloud adoption,” he told Channel Futures. “We have huge possibilities to address business and technology requirements from our customers, and if we choose and commit with the right business partners, I’m sure we can continue growing.”

Introducing an Azure-Nutanix Pairing

Finally, Nutanix and Microsoft announced this week they have teamed up. The Nutanix Clusters service now will reside on Azure; it already lives on Amazon Web Services. The partnership enables businesses to transition to hybrid and multicloud more quickly and easily.

Nutanix Clusters pool resources for a group of physical servers. That protects data against hardware failure and allows applications to run on any node in the cluster. Nutanix HCI software powers the clusters, which deliver hybrid cloud infrastructure to run applications in private or public clouds. Instead of running on physical servers in customer data centers, they run on physical servers in Azure bare metal instances.

“We know customers are looking for solutions to truly – and simply – advance their cloud journey,” Tarkan Maner, chief commercial officer at Nutanix, said. “This partnership helps us deliver a single software stack across public and private clouds, resulting in increased agility, streamlined operations and significant cost savings.”

Turning Change Into Growth

All the partner program and product changes come after more than a year of growing pains for Nutanix — and a longer history of ups and downs with the indirect channel.

Last year, Nutanix’s global channel chief left after only 15 months on the job. The chief revenue officer also departed after the vendor reported lower-than-expected revenue guidance. That all happened nine months after Nutanix’s then-president jumped ship for a big data vendor. And just last month, Nutanix said CEO Dheeraj Pandey is retiring.

Alvarez intends to help steer a shift for Nutanix as it continues its move toward software and recurring subscription solutions.

“The channel is an integral part of our growth strategy,” Alvarez said.

He intends to use Nutanix Elevate as a lure for new partners to join forces with the company.

“This will certainly drive additional growth in the rest of our portfolio of products. We’re hoping this will drive even more mindshare across the community on a global basis. And on the flip side of that, our hope is that our partners really resonate nicely with the changes that we’ve made, that we’re able to demonstrate that we are committed to our two-tier route to market, that we are a channel-friendly company.”

Now it’s up to Nutanix – and whomever the company appoints as its new CEO – to stand behind those assertions.

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About the Author(s)

Kelly Teal

Contributing Editor, Channel Futures

Kelly Teal has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist, editor and analyst, with longtime expertise in the indirect channel. She worked on the Channel Partners magazine staff for 11 years. Kelly now is principal of Kreativ Energy LLC.

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